No One But You: Building a World

This post orginally appeared on the Bella Books Blog

Most of my romance novels and short stories are triggered by something I see or hear or read or dream that generates narrative or dialogue in my head. Walking around during the day or waking up in the middle of the night with these sentences and conversations buzzing in my mind can be a little crazy making. The only way to clear my thoughts is to write down as much of the story and the characters as I know at that time, give it a name, and put it aside. I currently have about thirty-five of these in various stages-snippets of dialogue, pages of actual writing, or just notes on how I think the story should go. From time to time, I’m drawn back to complete one.

I’m not sure of the source of the idea for No One But You, my recently released full-length romance, but it started as one of these, as a scene in which Robin and Lily are breaking up. Strangely, even when I created that scene and filed it away, I knew it was a romance and it needed a happily ever after ending, not a divorce.

When I actually started working on No One But You, the only things I knew were the names of the characters, that they had a child and were breaking up. It appeared to be the end of the story but then it couldn’t be a romance. Or could it? As I developed the backstory for each character and the story of how they’d arrived at this point, I realized the breakup scene was the middle of the book not the end and I needed to explore the story of what happened after they broke up. I call this part of the writing process “world building” because by the end of the book I’ve created the physical, emotional, cultural, and psychological world of the characters and woven them together into a story. It’s never a straight line from beginning to end and there’s always a lot of deleting along the way, but I love letting my imagination go free.

Choosing the location for the story was a non-issue. With the exception of a few short stories set in Provincetown, everything I’ve written up to now has been set in New York City where I live. Most of No One But You is set on the Upper West Side where Lily lives and in Battery Park City in lower Manhattan near the World Trade Center where Robin lives, but Lily and Robin also visit Coney Island in Brooklyn and the Highline.

Although my first romance, Matters of the Heart, required research on heart surgery, the research for No One But You was a greater challenge because the story involves in vitro fertilization (IVF), premature babies and postpartum psychosis, issues that I knew little to nothing about when I started. Luckily, I enjoy reading about a wide range of topics so research is not a hardship. I found many articles on all three issues on the various medical websites and the New York Public Library was a great source of books on the topic. My goal was to include the information required to flesh out the story and the characters but not include so much that it overwhelmed the reader.

No One But You is about what comes after the happily ever after. I love these characters and this story and I sincerely hope readers will too.


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